This ambitious and fascinating history considers why, in the space of sixty years between 1850 and 1910, football grew from a marginal and unorganised activity to become the dominant winter entertainment for millions of people around the world.

The book explores how the world’s football codes - soccer, rugby league, rugby union, American, Australian, Canadian and Gaelic - developed as part of the commercialised leisure industry in the nineteenth century. Football, however and wherever it was played, was a product of the second industrial revolution, the rise of the mass media, and the spirit of the age of the masses.

Important reading for students of sports studies, history, sociology, development and management, this book is also a valuable resource for scholars and academics involved in the study of football in all its forms, as well as an engrossing read for anyone interested in the early history of football.

chapter |3 pages


chapter 1|6 pages

The failure of the Football Association

chapter 2|7 pages

Before the beginning

Folk football

chapter 3|7 pages

The gentleman’s game

chapter 4|7 pages


Football beyond the metropolis

chapter 5|7 pages

The end of the universal game

chapter 6|9 pages

From the classes to the masses

chapter 7|6 pages


Football capital of the nineteenth century

chapter 8|12 pages

The coming of professionalism

chapter 9|10 pages

Kicking against the pricks

Women and football

chapter 10|7 pages

Rugby football

A house divided

chapter 11|8 pages


A city and its football

chapter 13|11 pages


Creating Gaelic football

chapter 15|11 pages

American football

The old game in the new world

chapter 16|12 pages

Canadian football

Between scrum and snapback

chapter 17|8 pages

Rugby league football

From people’s game to proletarian sport

chapter 20|13 pages


The modern game for the modern world

chapter 21|6 pages

The global game